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Douglas warns HB 399 still a threat

State Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) warns residents about the continuing threat House Bill 399 poses to Clayton County during a town hall meeting in Lovejoy Thursday.

State Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) warns residents about the continuing threat House Bill 399 poses to Clayton County during a town hall meeting in Lovejoy Thursday.

— Although Clayton County officials are negotiating a truce with concessionaires at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, state Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) warned constituents Thursday to remain vigilant.

Legislators hope a truce will kill House Bill 399, which is pending in the state Senate and would bar the county from collecting millions of ad valorem tax dollars on leases the concessionaires have at the airport. But the bill is technically still alive and elected officials fear another push will be made next year to get it through to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

“We’ve got to work it out now or it’s going to pass,” said Douglas during a town hall meeting.

While Douglas said the Clayton County Legislative Delegation had a “strong” membership lineup that got some key goals accomplished this year, the legislators’ work has been overshadowed by the looming threat of House Bill 399.

Douglas mentioned some of the delegation’s successes this year. Those include getting $19.8 million set aside in the state budget for a new science building at Clayton State University. A success for Douglas came with the passage and eventual signing into law of a senate bill he sponsored in the House of Representatives to help foreign residents get drivers licenses.

But, when residents got to ask questions, they’re primary concern was the anti-airport tax bill.

It made it out of the House but stalled in the Senate during the final days of the 2013 legislative term. It is technically still alive until the end of the 2014 legislative term.

Earlier this week, county lobbyist Murphy Talmadge announced that officials were trying to reach an agreement with the concessionaires before the next term begins in an attempt to kill the bill once and for all.

Lovejoy Mayor Bobby Cartwright blamed former county officials, including former Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell and ex-Commissioner Wole Ralph, for letting relations with airport vendors reach this point.

“This should have never happened,” Cartwright said. “Our former leaders let this happen, however, by not worrying about it and not taking it seriously.”